Parliament has passed the One-Stop Border Control Bill aimed at putting a legal framework in place for the operationalisation of the one-stop border post concept between Malawi and neighbouring countries.
Malawi entered into the one-stop border-post agreement with Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, but there is need for legislation for it to come into effect.
Tabling the Bill on Tuesday in Parliament, Minister of Trade Mark Katsonga-Phiri commended members of Parliament (MPs) for supporting the Bill, saying Malawi was the only country without legislation on the same.
The legislation will facilitate coordinated border controls for efficient cross-border movements of people and clearance of goods. It will also promote international trade by reducing costs.
“It will simplify, harmonise, standardise and modernise border control procedures, resulting in reduced international trade costs by expediting clearance of goods and easing movement of people between Malawi and neighbouring countries,” said Katsonga-Phiri.
The minister said his ministry was receiving complaints of delays and harassment in clearing of goods; hence, the one-stop border post seeks to reduce the number of stops in cross-border trade.
An assessment of challenges faced on borders established that it took an average of six days to clear goods.
“The delays were due to inadequate infrastructure, poor information and commutations technology facilities, inadequate skills, presence of multiple border agencies working in isolation and unharmonised working hours of neighbouring countries,” said Katsonga-Phiri.
He expressed concern that delays on borders affect businesses and make trade uncompetitive, adding that with the one-stop border post system, it should take an hour to clear goods.
Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson on the Bill, Nicholas Dausi said such kinds of Bills should be promoted.
“This will also enhance relationships between Malawi and neighbouring countries. So we support the Bill,” he said.
However, he said Malawi should strive to be an exporter and not just importing products from other countries.
Mzimba North MP Yeremiah Chihana said there is need for the facilities to benefit border districts too.
He said 10 percent of the revenue generated from the border posts should go towards developments in those districts.
Recently, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Committee of ministers of trade agreed to fully implement the Sadc Free Trade Area to facilitate free movement of goods.
The free trade areas will ensure increased movement of goods and people from one country to another, which will need improved efficiency in borders.